Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 8 No. 2

David Renton

Bread and Freedom [1]

THE years of 1939–53 were a period of immense turmoil in Egyptian political life. Demonstrations and general strikes calling for the evacuation of the British army involved millions of people in a movement which linked demands for national liberation with demands for radical social change. The organised working class played a leading rôle. The established nationalist parties, especially the Wafd, found themselves marginalised by radical oppositional groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Communists. In particular, Communist militants influenced thousands of workers through their political activities in the trade unions, and provided a pole of opposition to the conservatism of the Brotherhood. Yet the ferment of these years did not benefit the Communists. After eight years of rising protests, culminating in guerrilla warfare in the Canal Zone, it was the Free Officers who seized power. Despite the leading rôle played by the working class in the nationalist movement, organised workers were subordinated to army officers. Both the Communist groups and the trade unions supported the coup, only to see the Free Officers use repression to break strikes and drive the left underground. Firstly, the Communists welcomed the Free Officers, and then they denounced them as fascists. Finally, they welcomed them again as progressive allies of the Soviet Union. Given that the Free Officers were already determined to curtail all opposition, the vacillations of the Communist parties only made it easier for the Free Officers to destroy the Egyptian socialist movement. This turned out to be a historic defeat, from which the left has not yet recovered.

Histories of the left in Egypt have concentrated on the rôle of the Communist parties. However, given that they did fail, it is only right to look at the alternatives that were on offer. For this reason, it is to be regretted that historians have so far failed to take sufficient account of the rôle of Trotskyism in Egypt. The historians of the left, Ahmad Abdalla, Joel Beinin, Ellis Jay Goldberg and Zachary Lockman, make hardly any mention of the Trotskyist group. [2] Gilles Perault dismisses them as ‘rare birds’, intellectuals in progress from surrealism to Trotskyism and back. Historians of the international Trotskyist movement have not given the group more attention. Pierre Frank makes no mention of Egyptian Trotskyism, while Robert Alexander suggests that Trotskyism came to Egypt only in the 1970s. Even Selma Botman, the most sympathetic historian of the Egyptian left, argues that the group was of no lasting importance:

Trotskyism for the most part was an insignificant movement, confined to a small intellectual circle of young Egyptians. While there were limited and sporadic efforts to reach a broader base of the Egyptian population, this brand of Marxist thought never gripped even a small segment of the popular classes. [3]

This article will argue that the existing accounts are wrong to ignore Egyptian Trotskyism. Bread and Freedom was not a large group, it never had mass support, and it did not leave behind it any living tradition or successor organisation. For all these reasons, Botman is correct – the group failed. However, given the conditions of extreme repression which marked Egyptian society at this time, it was an achievement merely to exist. Simply because the group produced literature and was active, it was important. Moreover, it was not simply some sterile backwater. When Art et Liberté (Art and Liberty) was set up in 1939, it was the first explicitly socialist group to be formed in Egypt since the 1920s. Its newspaper, al-Tatawwur (Evolution), was the first Egyptian socialist paper, and later the first to be published in Arabic. When Trotskyists stood in the Egyptian elections of December 1944–January 1945, they were among the first socialists to take part in open political work for over 20 years. The group went through a series of changes, calling itself Pain et Liberté (Bread And Freedom, 1940), the Socialist Front (1944–45) and then alternately the Egyptian Section of the Revolutionary Communist Party, the Egyptian Section of the Fourth International, and the International Communist Group (1945–46). This article will argue that the organisation collapsed prematurely. It was the group’s success that made it visible to the secret police, and forced its leading cadres to escape into exile in 1946.

There is one further reason for returning to the story of Egyptian Trotskyism. For most of the twentieth century, the dominant strategy within the left in the Third World has been to place all priority on the sole question of national liberation. Within the many Communist parties in Africa and Asia and Latin America, the argument has been that national independence is the first goal, and until that has been achieved, all talk of socialism is meaningless. Consequently, the revolutions that have taken place in China, Algeria, Cuba and elsewhere have set themselves the task of uniting the nation under state control. Much like the old bourgeois revolutions which took place in seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe and America, the colonial revolutions of the twentieth century have achieved the removal of feudalism and the urbanisation of the workforce. Even while the workers and peasants of the Third World have challenged imperialism, and have fought for a total transformation of society, their leaders have been prepared to accept much more limited change. [4] The Egyptian Trotskyists were one group that did not recognise any separation between the struggle for national liberation and the fight for socialism. There have been larger and better-known Trotskyist organisations in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Bolivia, but the Egyptian group is worthy of study. They possessed a broad conception of internationalism, in which the goal was to liberate all the workers of the world. Unlike their Communist rivals, the Trotskyists demanded a root-and-branch socialism, both within Egypt and throughout the world.

It is extremely difficult to find accurate information about or existing records for the Egyptian group. To this day, Egypt remains a military dictatorship. There is no working-class archive, and no popular deposit of material from this period. Copies of al-Tatawwur have been left in the Egyptian national library, but for the moment they have been lost. The best source for information on Bread and Freedom remains the unpublished papers deposited with the Jock Haston archive in Hull in England. Between 1944 and 1946, a number of British soldiers made contact with the Egyptian group. They sent back their own reports to the newly-formed British organisation, the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). They encouraged leading members of the Egyptian group to send reports back to their comrades living in England. These letters are partial, as they give the group’s own idea of Bread and Freedom’s success. They are also shaped by Bread and Freedom’s relationship with the small number of experienced British Trotskyists. It is possible that the members of the Egyptian group were writing what they thought their audience would want to be told. Yet, with care, a fuller picture can be constructed of what the organisation actually did.

The Egyptian Context

During the nineteenth century, the Egyptian economy was transformed, as the whole of the Middle East was sucked into the emerging world capitalist economy. Egyptian society was changed radically by this process. Peasants became landless rural labourers, artisans found that their handicrafts were replaced by cheap, mass-produced imports from Europe, and cities attracted an army of dispossessed peasants searching for work in the factories. However, this process was as partial as it was rapid. Egypt was a nominally sovereign kingdom, but it came under the sway of a succession of imperialist powers, from the Ottomans to the British until 1956. The Egyptian economy was distorted by the pressure of imperialism. After an initial early attempt to industrialise under Muhammad Ali in the 1820s, economic development was completely subordinated to the needs of the imperial economy. As the Egyptian writer Salama Musa suggested at the time, British rule ‘transformed the entire Nile Valley into a gigantic cotton plantation’. [5] The result was a lop-sided development where those sectors concerned with the production, processing or distribution of Egypt’s main primary goods advanced rapidly, while the rest stagnated.

European capitalists, following a pattern common to much of the Middle East, encouraged the development of a native layer of middlemen and agents, many of whom began to invest in industry and land themselves. Many of these native entrepreneurs were of Greek, Armenian, Syrian or Jewish descent. They kept themselves culturally distinct from the rest of the population. [6] They owed their privileged position to the Capitulations which allowed some of the religious minorities in the Ottoman Empire to enjoy the protection of Europeans and gain exemption from Ottoman laws and taxes. The presence of this group of Egyptian-born foreign capitalists, which shared cultural connections and political networks with European capital, left little room for the emergence of an Arabic-speaking native bourgeoisie. However, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the earliest representatives of an Arabic-speaking Egyptian bourgeoisie had begun to emerge. In order to speed up the process of Egyptianisation, the government purchased shares in key industries. It also established a national bank, the Bank Misr, to break into the most important sectors of the economy. The Egyptian members of the capitalist class were chiefly wealthy through their vast land holdings, but they made tentative steps towards investment in industry and, significantly, played an important rôle in founding the first nationalist parties in Egypt, including the Wafd. [7] However, the numbers of these Egyptian capitalists remained small and their political influence was limited, certainly before 1952. This weakness was compounded by the fact that the Egyptian capitalists who hankered after economic independence found themselves drawn into conflict with the might of the British Empire.

The war years transformed the Egyptian economy. As Jean and Simonne Lacouture suggest: ‘The First World War turned Egypt into a nation, the second of 1939-45 made her something of a world power.’ Whole new branches of industry were set up to fill the gaps in supplies as the normal mechanisms of international trade were interrupted by war. [8] Production expanded in many industries, notably textiles, processed food, chemicals, glass, leather, cement and petroleum. The British Middle East Supply Centre (MESC) took an active rôle in providing expert help for industrialists wishing to expand production. The war shut out foreign imports and opened up new markets in the Middle East. The British camps employed up to 300,000 Egyptians at relatively high rates of pay, who then had money to spend on Egyptian products, without Egyptian employers having to pay a penny towards their wages. The ratio of declared profits to share capital rose from an average of 13 per cent in the prewar period to over 20 per cent during the war.

One effect of this growth was to give confidence to Egyptian workers. The number of industrial labourers increased, according to one estimate, from around 412,000 in 1937 to over 1.5 million in 1946. [9] Most workers remained in conditions of extreme poverty, and 40 per cent still worked for 70 hours a week or more, but industrial wages just about kept pace, and a fitter whose salary before the war had varied between 12 and 15 piastres a day could by 1946 expect to earn 40 or 50 piastres. [10] Trade unions were legalised in 1942, and the textile workers of Shubra al-Khayma in Cairo responded by building independent unions. There were strikes over pay, conditions and trade union recognition, which became rapidly politicised through the experience of government repression and British wartime restrictions. By late 1945, the level of industrial unrest was steadily increasing. In December, Shubra was under army occupation as wage disputes spiralled into a full-time confrontation with the government.

The war provided a considerable but uneven stimulus to growth, and the Egyptian economy did not develop the stability to absorb any future crisis. The buoyant fortunes of the native bourgeoisie were achieved at the cost of the impoverishment of the vast majority. Prices rose by 300 per cent. [11] The irregular development of the economy meant that some areas advanced rapidly, while others stagnated. More petrol was produced, but less food; more cotton and less grain. Indeed, the extraordinary economic growth which did take place during the war was achieved in atypical and temporary conditions. The suspension of foreign competition proved to be a considerable stimulus to development, but could not be continued once the war was over. The agricultural base of the economy was weakened and was unable to meet the demands of a rapidly expanding population. The class expected to overcome these problems, the native bourgeoisie, was still very weak and its political representative, the Wafd Party, had lost much of its political credibility by allowing the hated British to install it in power in 1942. It was clear that the ending of the war would lead rapidly to a social crisis. It was not clear how that crisis would end.

Political Alternatives

The largest political party in Egypt before 1939 was the Wafd. It was a nationalist organisation, dedicated to removing the British and developing Egyptian industry. It had first grown in the upsurge of nationalist politics after the First World War. Having been placed in power in 1942, the Wafd organised and won a general election. The organisation remained influential, and in 1943 it succeeded in having Fuad Serag el Dine Pasha, one of the richest landowners in Egypt, elected as the honorary president of all of the existing trade unions. However, the Wafd was considered by most Egyptians to be far too close to the British, and it was effectively marginalised by radical opposition groups. It therefore failed to grow out of the opportunities presented by the war. Assisted by the failure of the Wafd, a number of small groups took part in the postwar events, including Misr-al-Fatat (Young Egypt), a near-fascist organisation on the right, and the Trotskyists on the left. The most important opposition forces, however, were the Muslim Brotherhood and the Communists. The Muslim Brotherhood was originally founded in 1929 by Hassan al-Banna, while in the 1940s it claimed between 500,000 and one million members. [12] The Brotherhood possessed a network of branches across the country, and it organised an impressive array of social projects, clinics and schools, and produced vast numbers of pamphlets, book and periodicals. The Brotherhood’s participation in the nationalist movement was marked by an ambivalent attitude towards the state, which paralysed it whenever it was faced with seizing power. Each time the nationalist movement moved closer to actual confrontation with the state, the Brotherhood moved closer to the Palace or the government. During the 1946 crisis, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, cooperated with the government. Then, in the middle of the police strike of April 1948, the Brotherhood published the government’s ultimatum to the policemen ordering them back to work.

For the Brotherhood, the key question was the presence of British troops on Egyptian soil, and there were still around half-a-million British soldiers stationed in Egypt at this time. In 1946, the Muslim Brotherhood took part in the protests, calling for the British evacuation of Egypt and the Sudan, while over the next two years, it gave fervent support to the Arab League’s invasion of Palestine. The Brotherhood’s paper, al Ikhwan al-Muslimin, printed report after report dedicated to the young men who had died a martyr’s death in Palestine. In 1948, the Muslim Brotherhood lurched into terrorism. [13] It attacked foreign shops and businesses, and especially Jewish enterprises. In 1952, the Muslim Brotherhood originally supported the Free Officers’ coup, and several members of the Free Officers, notably Sadat, were also members of the Brotherhood, but the vacillations of the Muslim Brotherhood meant that the organisation failed to have any significant impact on the leadership or the policies of the Free Officers. The Brotherhood was eventually manoeuvred out of any positions of power, and was dissolved.

The first Egyptian Communist Party had been set up in 1920. However, it was quickly smashed by state repression. [14] This set a pattern for the future. As soon as any left-wing group took part in public activity, it would bring down on its head the wrath of the Egyptian state. In the 1920 and early 1930s, a series of small Communist parties were set up, with the backing of the Communist International. All were immediately closed down. Even into the 1940s, the secret police and other state agencies were able to keep a close control of the Communist organisations. In December 1945 and January 1946, police arrested the entire membership of the Communist group around the paper the New Dawn. In July 1946, the state acted against leading trade unionists and members of the larger Communist cells. In August 1952, following the Free Officers’ coup, arrests crippled every one of the active left-wing parties.

The origins of most of the Communist groups of the 1940s lay in the anti-fascist movement of the late 1930s. By the 1940s, these groups had attracted hundreds of young people, including some Egyptian workers, although the leadership of the various groups typically came from among the sons and daughters of Cairo’s resident foreign bourgeoisie. Henri Curiel, son of a wealthy Jewish banker, set up the Egyptian Movement for National Liberation (EMNL) in 1943. Hillel Schwartz, from a similar background to Curiel, set up Iskra, a largely propagandist group which attracted a following of hundreds of intellectuals and students. Youssef Darwish, a Jewish lawyer, became involved in the trade union movement in Shubra al-Khayma in Cairo, and organised a cell which included the leading activists in the textile workers’ union, which had several thousand members. [15] In 1945, this group began publishing a weekly magazine, New Dawn. Selma Botman suggests that the Communist movement was characterised throughout this period by three striking features:

First, the Communist movement has rarely been unified. For most of the twentieth century it has been made up of separate and rival Marxist organisations. Diversity has led to much fragmentation and interparty hostility which has weakened the impact of Communism in the country. Second, there has been a noticeable disassociation between the Communists and the Egyptian people. This is most obviously reflected in the composition of the movement, which has been middle-class and was during the 1940s made up of ethnic minorities. Third, the Communists have never created a mass movement or diffused their ideas beyond the narrow realm of intellectuals, some skilled workers, and a handful of peasants. [16]

It is certainly true that to say that small groups flourished, and that even the main organisations had a tendency to fracture into tiny competing splinter groups. For instance in 1947, the two largest groups, Iskra and the EMNL, merged to form the Democratic Movement for National Liberation (DMNL). Yet only one year afterwards the merger began to unravel, and the DMNL collapsed into a dozen different and competing factions.

The perspectives of the Communist groups were determined by the politics of the Popular Front. Liberation was seen as a process that would take place in stages. Firstly, the Egyptian bourgeoisie would emancipate itself from British rule, and only then could workers’ issues come to the fore. The Communist Party of Great Britain’s colonial office, which was expected to supervise work in Egypt, together with the equivalent office within the French Communist Party, offered this advice to the Egyptian groups: ‘The people’s democracy we want to establish in Egypt is not a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. We aim to establish a democratic dictatorship of all the classes struggling against imperialism and feudalism.’ [17] This emphasis on the political priority of the interests of the Egyptian bourgeoisie does not mean that the Communists absented themselves from the trade unions. The New Dawn group and the EMNL both sponsored representatives at the Congress of the World Federation of Trade Unions in September 1945. Yusuf al-Mudarrik, the delegate sponsored by New Dawn and the larger textile workers’ union of Shubra, gained the endorsement of 102 unions representing 80,000 workers. The EMNL-backed delegate, Da’ud Nahum, was sponsored by 62 unions representing 60,000 workers. [18] Within the trade unions, however, Communist groups argued that the most immediate issue was not pay or conditions, but the question of national liberation. This became clear following the following the Free Officers’ coup of July 1952. Immediately, the DMNL and the trade union leadership acted to call off the planned transport strikes. That August, a strike broke out in the mill town of Kafr al-Dawwar near Alexandria. Despite the fact that the workers had declared their support for the coup, the Free Officers hanged two of the strikers. The DMNL and the trade unions successfully opposed all calls for sympathy action in support of the strikers.

What The Trotskyists Did [19]

The first avowedly Trotskyist group, Art et Liberté (Art and Freedom), was founded in 1939. Its name would suggest that this was originally a literary group. Lotfallah Soliman, one of the earliest members, describes the group as a collection of bohemians, ‘intellectuals, writers, artists’. [20] Beyond Soliman himself, other members included Georges Henein, Ramses Younane, Anwar Kamal and Kamal al-Tilmisani. [21] Although the group was almost unique among the Egyptian left, in that its leadership was drawn from Arabic-speaking indigenous Egyptians, the language used was French, the language of cosmopolitan Egypt. [22] As Botman indicates, ‘the audience capable of appreciating the form and being influenced by the content of the group’s ideas was extremely limited’. [23] Art and Freedom organised exhibitions in Cairo in 1941, 1942, 1944 and 1945. The purpose of these exhibitions was to raise the profile of Egyptian surrealist art, and they were chiefly remarkable for the large number of women artists and photographers who took part. The group also organised public lectures, which seem to have been more accessible. Art et Liberté owned its own publishing house, Éditions Masses (The Masses), operating from 10 Rue Eloui in Cairo. A typical pamphlet was Qui Est Monsieur Aragon?, by Jean Damien (Georges Henein). This pilloried the French poet Aragon’s lapse from surrealism to conventional verse, which was explained in terms of his political ties to Stalinism. Aragon’s work ‘confirms to us the urgent need for a critical reappraisal, which would halt at last the immense “Russian retreat” which has lost the majority of the ambitions of our time’. [24] These words may have contributed to the Egyptian artistic scene, and Aragon was a popular and well-known figure, especially in France, but they did not contribute to the building of a mass party, offering a socialist solution to the crisis of Egyptian society.

The first way in which Art and Freedom did attempt to break the bonds of polite society was by publishing a newspaper, al-Tatawwur. Between January 1940 and September 1940, seven issues were published, in French and Arabic. The first five were produced in magazine form, the last two as newspapers. This was very much a literary review. The magazine described itself as ‘the premier review of art and literature in the Arab world’. Articles addressed questions of imperialism and women’s rights, education, philosophy and literature. There were also Arabic translations of Albert Cossery’s short stories. [25] The magazine was edited by Anwar Kamal, and its tone is evident in an article published in March 1940: ‘This review fights against the reactionary spirit, protects the rights of the individual and insists on the right of women to live in freedom. This review fights for modern art and free thought, and presents to young Egypt the movements of today.’ [26] The paper achieved a passable circulation, and was respected within educated circles, but was also hopelessly abstract, and useless for propaganda work. It could be argued that this was not the fault of the Trotskyists. Given the high level of police activity, any publication would have to be propagandist in character. Alex Acheson, a British soldier stationed in Egypt during the war, describes the group working in conditions of strict secrecy: ‘The Egyptians had to work under extremely difficult conditions. There was apparently an “open society”, but where revolutionary politics of any kind were illegal, and the penalty was imprisonment (which was often used to break people, physically and psychologically).’ Acheson cites the example of Iqbal Alaily, who had published a book entitled The German Genius to counteract the atrocity propaganda of the Allies. Alaily’s book was a collection of German romantic and pre-surrealist prose and verse, with passages from the writers Arnim, Höderlin and Kleist. Despite her condemnation of German chauvinism, Iqbal Alaily received the hostile attentions of the British police. ‘She was told that unless she curtailed her activities and stopped associating with the group, she would finish up in the Tura quarries. For a delicate girl like that it would have been a death sentence.’ [27]

From the middle of 1940 onwards, Art and Freedom was superseded by a second and different organisation, Bread and Freedom. The new name represented a change of emphasis. Although the exhibitions continued until 1945, the group was now far more determined to recruit working-class support. Speeches and public meetings addressed economic issues, including poverty and class, and the need to transform the existing parties. Indeed, Bread and Freedom did have some limited success among textile and aviation workers. [28] By 1942, the group may have had around 100 members. Some of the character of the group at this time is conveyed by Sayed Suleiman Rifai, who was later a prominent member of the Egyptian Communist Party, working under the name of Badr. In the 1940s, he was a mechanic in the Egyptian Air Force. His account of two Trotskyist meetings is romanticised and overblown, but still revealing:

My first contact, which came about by chance, was with Anwar Kamal’s group, Bread And Freedom. Later, I learned that Georges Henein belonged to it. It was a group of intellectuals. A meeting was arranged in the country, near the Pyramids. There turned out to be about a dozen of us. Kamal arrived. I can see him now, with that lock of black hair falling over one eye and a cigar stuck in his face. He greeted us and said, “We’ll sing the anthem.” Just like that, in the middle of the desert, they sang this song that began, “Onward comrades, to live is to struggle!” I was amazed. Then Kamal made a speech, waving his cigar about. I found it meaningless. The next time, the meeting was in a house. There were three guys I had known in the Air Force, and Kamal again. He gave a talk on historical materialism. I understood nothing. Not a word! What’s more, none of the others did, either. I went home utterly discouraged, depressed. I was convinced I was completely useless. There never was a third meeting, because Kamal was arrested. The group had to disband. In any case, I lost contact … [29]

In 1942, the state acted against Bread and Freedom. Sixteen of its members were arrested and held for a year. Selma Botman suggests that this was the end of the group, ‘while it did live on until 1946, it did so in a very truncated and quiescent form … the group simply withered away’. In reality, the group survived this first wave of arrests, and was able to continue as a clandestine organisation. The Trotskyists published a newspaper, el-Megela el-Gedida (The New Magazine), which was closed down by the government in May 1944. [30] The organisation may have grown, and indeed it reached the peak of its influence in 1945-46.

Despite the repression, Bread and Freedom carried out international work. It corresponded with Palestinian Trotskyists, and published the Palestinians’ letter on Zionism. In 1943, the Israeli Jewish socialist party, Hashomer Hatzair, made contact with Bread and Freedom, asking if it would support a two-state solution in Palestine. Hashomer Hatzair argued that ‘the revolutionary solution was to stop the domination of one nation by another’, suggesting that the Arabs already had several states to call their own, so it would only be fair if Arab socialists supported Jewish demands for self-determination. The Egyptian group turned down their appeals. What the Trotskyists were looking for was united action around an agreed policy, and neither Hashomer Hatzair nor Mapam was keen to listen. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this dialogue is that it took place at all. The left Zionists were aligned with the official Communist International, while Bread and Freedom was not. The Jewish groups were still keen to make links with the Arab left. After 1945, when there were larger Egyptian Communist parties, and when such parties as Mapam could easily have kept up with them, such contacts hardly took place at all. [31]

From its inception, Bread and Freedom was distinguished from the other forces on the left by its internationalist stance. The Communist groups tended to dissolve themselves into the ‘patriotic’ struggle for Egyptian liberation. In the process, they came up against the Egyptian bourgeoisie’s ambitions for territorial expansion, notably in the Sudan. By contrast, the Trotskyists attempted to combine demands for national liberation with a continuing emphasis on class. One manifesto declared: ‘We must struggle against British imperialism. We must struggle against budding Egyptian imperialism. We must struggle against imperialism wherever we find it. That is why we call for active solidarity with all the peoples who are fighting for their liberty.’ [32] Unlike so much of the left, Bread and Freedom avoided the trap of supporting the Egyptian state’s demands for territorial expansion.

British Soldiers

At the height of its activity, in 1944-46, Bread and Freedom perceived itself to be part of an international movement. This sense that it was not just an isolated section of militants, but a player in a broader struggle, gave the group the confidence to act. The group tended to describe itself as the Egyptian Revolutionary Communist Party, Section of the Fourth International. It was well informed about the international situation, although it may have relied too much on the optimistic pronouncements of the British Trotskyist newspapers. In October 1944, Georges Henein wrote to Jimmy Deane of the British group, the Revolutionary Communist Party, congratulating him on the formation of the British party; ‘the black days’, Henein wrote, ‘are definitely behind us’. Nine months later, Henein wrote to Ann Keen, then working as the business manager for the British party. ‘Our group has followed with the utmost interest the political fight of the British masses which ended in such an overwhelming Labour victory’, Henein wrote:

The very inspired part assumed by the RCP in this gigantic struggle was enthusiastically commented by our people down here. In particular, the Neath by-election was considered as a most successful step. By comparison with the votes polled by many CP candidates in the general elections, Neath’s vote is certainly a very encouraging one. The political line of the RCP has been a firm and consistent guide to all of us and we are building great hopes on your coming action. [33]

In the Neath by-election of May 1945, the RCP achieved 1781 votes, which was certainly a respectable result, but the organisation as a whole had less than 400 members at this time; and ‘the British masses’ were elsewhere. [34]

In 1945, Bread and Freedom was helped by the presence of several British soldiers with a Trotskyist background, including Alex Acheson, Alex Carson and Joe Pawsey, who were stationed in Egypt. At the time, there was a strict censorship imposed on all civilian mail passing in and out of Palestine and Egypt, but these soldiers could send some material back to England in relative security. [35] These reports gave the RCP some idea of what the Egyptian group was up to, and at times the RCP did give the organisation valuable support. In the same way that the Egyptian Trotskyists represented a continuity with the original Egyptian Communist Party going back to the early 1920s, so the British Trotskyists themselves were shaped by the parallel history of agitation among soldiers stationed in Egypt during the war. In the 1940s, many thousands of British and other servicemen passed through the Middle East, and most spent some time in Cairo. This city held two large headquarter establishments and was also the most popular leave centre in the region. In 1943-44, a number of British soldiers stationed in Cairo organised a Forces Parliament. Following Conservative allegations that it was simply a clique for the passing of left-wing resolutions, the parliament organised elections. In February 1944, over 300 soldiers voted, giving Labour 119 seats and Common Wealth 55, against 38 for the Liberals and 17 for the Conservatives. Six hundred soldiers then attended the King’s Speech, which voted to nationalise the banks, build four million houses, and nationalise land, mines and transport. In April, the military authorities closed down the Forces Parliament, censoring all press reports and posting the principal servicemen involved. [36]

The effect of the Forces Parliament was to radicalise the troops stationed in Cairo and Alexandria. As well as the Trotskyists, there were other organised forces on the left, including members of Common Wealth and the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). John Banks of Common Wealth remembers his organisation supporting the forces parliament, and acting as a conduit of news to left MPs in Britain. It is clear from his account that the soldiers had much greater political freedom than the civilians around them:

Common Wealth was never an illegal body in the Middle East, any more than were the CPGB or RCP. Servicemen and women were free to join as individuals. No check was made on our meetings, and suppressive action was directed at individuals who were considered as engaged in ‘subversive’ activity, which did not include membership of organisations, but charges such as alleged incitement to mutiny. Even then retaliation usually took the form of a posting to Iraq or Aqaba rather than court martial. [37]

Sam Bardell, the secretary of the parliament, was a member of the Communist Party and friendly with the DMNL group of Egyptian Communists. He introduced a group of British soldiers to the Rond-Point, a left-wing bookshop in Cairo. In 1944, these troops did all they could to help a mutiny of Greek soldiers, veterans of the war against Rommel, who refused to be sent back to Greece to support the right-wing junta being reimposed by the British. The British Army surrounded the mutineers of the Greek First Brigade in the desert near Alexandria, and cut off all supplies of water and food. Bardell, together with members of the DMNL and other left-wing soldiers, raised money for the mutineers and smuggled water, food and arms to them. In one daring operation, an RAF officer managed to switch a cargo of pamphlets the RAF was about to drop on the mutineers to persuade them to surrender. Instead, the plane dropped thousands leaflets urging the men to carry on. It is interesting to note the involvement of Sam Bardell in this episode. He was very much the official representative of the CPGB, at a time when the party was following Moscow’s lead and otherwise refused to support anything that might endanger either the war effort, or Stalin’s horse-trading over the fate of Greece. [38]


The Trotskyist group attained the height of its influence during the elections of 1944-45. The party stood Dr Fathy al-Ramly for the Cairo constituency of Mahkamet el Sayeda, then held by Ahmed Hussein, the leader of Young Egypt. Afterwards, Bread and Freedom sent back a report on the election, which described the intervention as a total success. It may be that their account was over-positive, but their version does make it clear that the group felt confident to take part in public activity. Alongside Communists, who also took part in the elections, this was the first time that any socialist had taken part in open propaganda work in Egypt since the 1920s. According to Georges Henein:

Dr Ramly’s initiative led to the immediate formation of a Socialist Front (al-Gabha al-Ishtirakya) in support of his candidature. At the beginning the Socialist Front was a grouping of two Stalinist centres plus the whole Trotskyist movement … But as soon as the electoral campaign took a definitely socialist shape with a predominant internationalist note, the Stalinists withdrew. Nevertheless, the Socialist Front did very well without the Stalinists, and the gap they left behind was immediately filled by an enthusiastic new element, youth from the University, and advanced workers …

Despite the withdrawal of the Communist parties, the agitation continued, and a programme of transitional demands was elaborated:

About 10 days before the poll, the government began to take the matter quite seriously. Orders were given and the socialist propaganda brought to a standstill; meetings were disrupted; supporters arrested; demonstrations roughly handled and disbanded … Dr Ramly was given the charity of 23 votes (while securing in reality at least 200 votes out of the 1000 expressed in this constituency). Whatever the official result and the government’s treachery, the campaign was excellently conducted and its effects are developing every day.

Surviving members of the group would later remember the enthusiasm with which Georges Henein, Loutfallah Soliman and Ramses Younane threw themselves into the campaign, as well as the lessons which the Trotskyists drew from their intervention: ‘It showed us the necessity of working together with other groups.’ [39] Bread and Freedom seem to have grown as a result of this intervention, notably in Alexandria, where the organisation recruited ‘many new elements’. [40] Meanwhile, the other socialist candidates also did well. Mohamed Mustafa, from the truck-drivers’ union, and Fadaly Abdel, a textile worker, received 230 and 820 votes respectively.

Around this time, the British Trotskyist soldiers in Egypt took part in what was to be their only open work among their own troops. By mid-1945, the Greek military coup was in full swing, and the reactionary Generals now needed foreign assistance to help them shore up their dictatorship. British soldiers stationed in Cairo were being sent to Greece to put down the revolt of workers and former resistance fighters who refused to accept the restored dictatorship. Alex Acheson duplicated and gave out a leaflet calling on British troops to refuse to fight for the Greek Generals:

By then I had re-established contact with Joe Pawsey … and we, in contact with the Egyptian comrades, drafted a leaflet, which the Egyptian comrades duplicated for us, which Joe and I were to distribute, calling upon the ‘squaddies’ in the army not to fight against their working-class brothers in Greece, but to refuse – and we nearly got caught. Joe was only able to escape the Military Police by diving into a cinema and subsiding into a seat amongst all the others. I was able to distribute in the canteens and Naafis, and in tents where we were in the desert sand. [41]

In the summer of 1945, it seemed that Bread and Freedom’s successful intervention in the Egyptian general election might enable the Trotskyists to win enough other forces to found a mass socialist party. This, at least, is what Georges Henein predicted, in a letter sent in July to Ann Keen of the British RCP. He told her:

The Socialist Front … has become the Committee for the Foundation of the Socialist Party of Egypt. A popular meeting is going to be organised shortly under its banner, for the celebration of Labour’s victory. The Egyptian workers are simply stirred by the left triumphant swing all over the continent and they are asking themselves, ‘Why haven’t we got our own Labour Party?’ [42]

In October, Henein’s correspondence described Bread and Freedom as fighting propaganda work against the Communists. The most important way in which the Egyptian Trotskyists distinguished themselves from the rest of the left was over the question of national liberation. For the Trotskyists, there was a necessary connection between national liberation and socialism. For the Communists, national liberation had to come first:

The Stalinists are doing their best to bring confusion to its peak. They are openly collaborating with fascists, promoting the same outworn ‘national front of liberation’ where there is room for anyone and everything. We are going to state our position in a long document on the ‘national question’ which is due to appear within two weeks.

Georges Henein painted a picture of a vibrant group, at the height of its success, winning layers of new recruits, and grappling with the real theoretical problems posed by its successful intervention in the general election:

Already Ramses Younane has prepared and issued an excellent study in Arabic dealing with the Labour Party, its beginnings, its fight, its perspectives. Loutfallah is working harder than ever and thanks to him and to a group of enthusiastic youngsters it looks as if we are going to have a brilliant season. [43]

From mid-1945, however, the state repression intensified. The Egyptian government established a Supreme Court of Security, made up of seven individuals, three nominated by the Ministry of the Interior, three chosen by British security, and one taken from the ranks of the police. This Supreme Court then raised private money; the King donated 25,000 Egyptian pounds and the British gave £150,000. With this new institution designed to coordinate the campaign of the security forces against the Egyptian revolution, it was the Trotskyists who were singled out as the first group to smash. Sam Bardell wrote to the CPGB to describe what he saw as this ‘astute prelude to the wholesale arrest of genuine socialists’. [44] By December 1945, Henein’s reports made it clear that police repression had intensified:

From 18 December to 21 December, 45 people have been arrested. At their head our friend Anwar Kamal who is being charged with the recent publication of a pamphlet in Arabic … The editorial board of the Stalinist weekly, Al-Fagr al-Gadid [New Dawn], has also been arrested. The repression is fluid and the authorities are hitting in all directions … Now any direct publicity in the Trot papers will do more harm than good … [45]

Following the arrests, Jock Haston wrote to a number of left Labour MPs, asking them to protest. The letter stressed that it was not only Trotskyists who were being arrested, and went on to ask the MPs to bring any pressure they could to bear:

The health of these comrades will be rapidly undermined in the foul conditions of Egyptian prisons if they are not freed soon, and a consequent loss of great magnitude will be suffered by the workers of Egypt and the Socialist movement of the world … The only way in which this may be prevented and the liberty of those imprisoned comrades restored, is if sufficient pressure is brought to bear on the Egyptian Government by the leaders of the working class in Britain and elsewhere. [46]

In retrospect, it seems clear that the arrests of December 1945 permanently knocked the confidence out of the members of the group, who now felt unable to publish any public newspaper. All their open political activities were scaled down. Despite this, Bread and Freedom took full part in the protest movement of February 1946. This followed the publication of the Egyptian government’s negotiations with the British Army, which were seen as a betrayal of the struggle for independence. University students organised a demonstration to petition the King. They were attacked by the British Army and the Egyptian police force on the Abbas Bridge, and 27 people were killed. The massacre was the signal for a wide-scale radicalisation of the national movement. Student and worker committees met and merged. This network of activists was able to mobilise huge numbers on demonstrations, and called several mass strikes. The student demonstration of 9 February was followed by a national day of action, Evacuation Day, on 21 February, which turned into a Cairo-wide general strike. The workers’ involvement in the movement reached its peak around June, as several large unions agreed to call a full general strike; but at the last moment some of the more conservative leaders of the transport unions pulled out under government pressure, and the strike collapsed. [47]

The Trotskyists joined the demonstration of 9 February 1946. The group brought out at least five breathless leaflets in the days that followed, urging the students to take their protest into the working-class districts and the factories. Their leaflets do not benefit from translation. To an outside ear they sound over-written, shrill and ultra-left. As the originals are lost, it is impossible to know how they would have read in Arabic at the time:

Students And Workers!! Unite as the spectre of reaction is hanging over the Country. You students alone cannot overcome the police, go to the workers and you will find enough power to meet the police, without a swift link with the workers our revolution will lose its popular grounds. Don’t appear before the Royal palace but to the Factories, to the Workers, the true representatives of the People … [48]

Bread and Freedom later wrote to the RCP to describe the success of their intervention. The Trotskyists suggested that their work had been decisive in shifting the mood of the demonstration:

In the well-organised leadership of our student comrades a new slogan was created. ‘Towards the Workers’, this was the slogan they adopted the other day. In Alexandria, 3000 students made a rush to the workers’ districts where 30,000 workers of textile factories lived, the police estimating the danger of such an affair fired on them and three students were killed, and two workers … In Cairo by its turn the students succeeded to join the workers, and from that very day a Joint Committee of Students and Workers has been created with the Trotskyists having a majority. It was the beginning of a new era in the history of our movement in Egypt … A month has passed and the tempo of demonstrations never faded or weakened … The Stalinists as well fascist [sic] made their attempt to approach the Joint-Committee but in vain. [49]

The group’s claim that their work had seen off the Communists within the joint student-worker committees did not turn out to be true. Whoever had first formed the joint committees, by April 1946 most of the militants were close to the much larger forces of Egyptian Communism.

This explosion of protest was ended in the spring and summer of 1946 by another wave of arrests. On 21 March 1946, the French paper Le Monde named those interned without trial, including Yousel el Mandarek and his fellow delegates to the 1945 world trade union congress, and also the well-known socialist Salama Moussa. E Sablier, writing in the French newspaper, pointed out that a number of Trotskyists had been detained, although like other contemporaries, he may have exaggerated their significance:

In a new country like Egypt progressive ideas are still the prerogative of intellectuals. Those among them who devote themselves to the study of Marxism find the opportunism of the official Communists today hardly intelligible. Thus they are drawn for the most part towards the undiluted Leninism which is incarnated by the Trotskyists. Moreover, while the solicitude evidenced by Soviet Russia for the Arab peoples is visibly inspired by its own strategic or diplomatic interests, Trotskyist propaganda is based on the interests of defending the proletariat. Furthermore, Trotsky and his revolutionary followers are feared as much if not more, by the official Communists as by the reactionary circles. Thus, by applying the label Trotskyist to the people arrested the Egyptian government is seeking, no doubt, to avoid Soviet remonstrances of the type which Ankara recently experienced during the anti-Communist demonstrations. [50]

Two months later, Ahmed Kamel Moursi Pasha, the Egyptian Minister of Justice, introduced a new law enacting fines of between 50 and 10,000 Egyptian pounds for persons ‘receiving subsidies from or maintaining contact with foreign organisations with a propaganda aim’. By the summer of 1946, over 1,000 people were held in detention, four papers were banned, and the government had closed down five bookshops and two socialist clubs. [51]

After the February demonstrations and following the consequent arrests, there seems to have been a lull in the group’s activity. In April 1946, Haston wrote to the leadership of Bread and Freedom, expressing his concern that nothing had been heard of the group for three months. He also described the political relationship between the Egyptian Trotskyists and the International. As this was a matter which was not recorded in print elsewhere at the time, it is likely that he was responding to information conveyed to him verbally, when the British soldiers returned from Egypt at the end of 1945. Alex Acheson suggests that Loutfallah Soliman was in sympathy with the German Trotskyist IKD against the International Secretariat, and this may have exacerbated the differences between the group and the rest of the International. If this is true, then it is likely that Soliman was more concerned to defend the IKD’s right to be heard, than to support their actual analysis of events in Europe. The argument between the IKD and the International centred upon the question of whether national liberation or social liberation should be the primary concern for socialists in the occupied territories of Europe during 1940–45. It is not surprising that these arguments had a resonance for socialists opposing the British presence in Egypt after 1945, but it would be strange if Soliman had taken the full IKD position. By extension, that would have meant support for the idea that Egypt needed national liberation before it could have socialism. [52]

In his letter, Haston noted that the group was aware of discussions within the British party, but made less effort to make its own discussions more widely known:

Some of the leading Egyptian comrades have important differences with International policy and with the policy of some of the sections (including the British). There are, for instance, criticisms of the British policy of attempting to win members from the ranks of the Stalinists; criticisms of the International’s policy in regard to democratic centralism, of the organised ‘tightness’ of the International; views on the fusion discussions in the USA. Now it is no earthly use holding these opinions if you do nothing to make them known within the International.

Haston also expressed his concern at the fact that the Egyptian group, for whatever reason, inclined more towards the British RCP than towards the International Secretariat:

It is my opinion – as some of the comrades will know – that the application of the Egyptian Group [to join the International] should be sent at once to the International Secretariat. Not to do so because – as Lout put it – you have no confidence in the present IS and prefer to make application direct to the next World Congress, betrays a remarkable distrust of the organisation with which you desire to be associated! [53]

Within a week of Haston sending this letter, the group did again make contact with its comrades in Britain. Georges Henein contacted the RCP to say that he planned to leave Cairo for Paris, ‘where he hopes to publish a book of poems’. Loutfallah was exhausted, ‘which makes personal contact with him sometimes difficult’. After Henein left for Paris, the leadership was entrusted into the hands of Ramses Younane. Around this time, Henein wrote a letter to Nicolas Calas, explaining his frustration with the politics of the Fourth International:

I have come to a growing sympathy with the anarchists whose attitude despite (or because of) its innocence, is fine, consistent and honest … In truth, what is tearing me away from the strategy of the Fourth International is its lack of passion, which combines with an overabundance of plans. With Trotsky, there was passion, nobility, the explosion of gunpowder. I see nothing of these in the voice or the bearing of his successors. [54]

In retrospect, Henein’s departure marked the beginning of the decline of the group. There simply were not enough experienced members to keep the party going, at a time when hundreds of thousands of Egyptian workers were taking part in mass strikes. There were huge opportunities to grow, and it was the Communist groups that harvested the rewards.

To talk of the decline of Bread and Freedom does not mean that the organisation died out all at once. In the spring and summer of 1946, Bread and Freedom, now renamed the International Communist Group, took part in setting up a ‘League For The Struggle Against Unemployment’. This was conceived as a united front with several of the Communist groups. Joint committees were set up in the workers’ quarter of Abbasieh in Cairo, among the workers in the military workshops, and among the textile workers living in Shubra al-Khayma. It also seems that Henein wrote to the RCP in October 1946, although the correspondence has since been lost. [55] In December 1946, the continuing presence of Bread and Freedom could be seen in the fact that the Culture Bookshop in Alexandria wanted 50 copies of Socialist Appeal, and 10 copies of each issue of Workers International News. In the summer of 1947, the Egyptian Trotskyists issued their ‘first manifesto since the reorganisation of the group’, which denounced the attempts of the Egyptian bourgeoisie to claim an imperial jurisdiction of its own over the Sudan, while in 1952, Anwar Kamal and Loutfallah Soliman issued a manifesto and programme. [56] Apart from these occasional signs, however, there is no sustained evidence of the group’s existence after 1946. Bread and Freedom continued in various forms until the early 1950s, but it seems to have become an increasingly paper organisation.

The Failure of Bread and Freedom

It is appropriate to end by asking why it was that Egyptian Trotskyism collapsed. As has been argued, it would be wrong to see the story of Bread and Freedom as a simple account of deepening failure. It would simply not be true to suggest, as Selma Botman does, that the Trotskyists peaked in 1940. Their greatest influence came much later, in 1945 and 1946, shortly before the group went into decline. For this reason, the ultimate failure of Bread and Freedom must be explained in terms of a combination of factors. The origins of the group were inauspicious. The only way to survive state repression would have been by building a party of revolutionary workers, not through extending a discussion circle of surrealist artists. Later, the fact that the leading members of the group published in French and English and aimed their propaganda at a layer of educated, affluent Egyptians would have hindered the development of any more significant organisation. Again, in 1945–46, it was a combination of external opportunities and internal weakness which undermined the Trotskyist organisation. Bread and Freedom was a discussion group, a propaganda circle. It was a form of organisation suited to a society developing evenly and without crisis. It was not the means to organise workers radicalised by the revolutionary opportunities of 1945–52. Finally, in 1947, the Communist parties across the world turned left as a response to their marginalisation following the outbreak of the Cold War. In Britain, the RCP collapsed, and in many other countries the Trotskyist parties went into crisis. [57] The Egyptian Stalinists grew in size and influence. Despite the presence of such well-known figures as Anwar Kamal and Loutfallah Soliman, there was no political room for a Trotskyist group to establish itself in Egypt.

Yet it would be wrong to see the group as a total failure. Between 1940 and 1946, it introduced the idea into the Egyptian socialist movement that there was no need to wait. There was no automatic reason why socialism could only be achieved in stages. There was no need to put the liberation of the Egyptian bourgeoisie before the liberation of the working class. The experience of the 1940s as a whole does show the possibility of change from below. Far from acting as passive observers, Egyptian workers were at the forefront of the national movement. Egyptian workers in the 1940s sensed that Egyptian capitalists paid the same low wages and used the same methods to smash unions as their foreign colleagues. Their realisation that national unity was a sham terrified the Wafd, the Palace and the British alike. The Egyptian Communist groups were determined to prevent class politics from being learned. Insofar as they succeeded, they facilitated a defeat which scattered the entire Egyptian left for a generation. The Trotskyists represented a small and partial alternative. Simply because they existed, they opened up the alternative of internationalist politics, which offered the possibility of genuine revolution, and which remains the best hope for Egyptian workers in the struggles to come.


1. Many thanks to Anne Alexander, Ian Birchall, Tony Cliff, Phil Marfleet and Al Richardson for comments on early drafts of this piece.

2. A. Abdalla, The Student Movement and National Politics in Egypt 1923–73, Al Saqi, London 1985; J. Beinin, Was the Red Flag Flying There? Marxist Politics and the Arab-Israeli Conflict in Egypt and Israel 1948–65, University of California Press, 1990; J. Beinin and Z. Lockman, Workers on the Nile, Tauris, Princeton, New Jersey 1988; E.J. Goldberg, Tinker, Tailor, Textile Worker: Class and Politics In Egypt 1930–54, PhD thesis, University of California, 1983.

3. G. Perrault, A Man Apart: The Life of Henri Curiel, Zed, London, 1987, p. 67; P. Frank, The Fourth International: The Long March of the Trotskyists, Ink Links, London 1979; R.J. Alexander, International Trotskyism 1929–85: A Documentary Analysis of the Movement, Durham University Press, 1991, p. 249; S. Botman, The Rise of Egyptian Communism 1939–70, New York University Press, 1988, pp. 12–16.

4. For a balance sheet on the Third World revolutions, see T. Cliff, Deflected Permanent Revolution, Socialist Workers Party, London 1986.

5. E. Davis, Challenging Colonialism: Bank Misr and Egyptian Industrialisation, 1920–41, Princeton University Press, 1983, p. 45; C. Issawi, An Economic History of the Middle East and North Africa, Oxford University Press, London 1982.

6. Isaawi, op. cit., p. 8; Perrault, op. cit.; W. Ghali, Beer in the Snooker Club, Serpents Tail, London 1987; A. Aciman, Out of Egypt, Random House, London 1996.

7. Davis, op. cit., pp. 47–9; the Economist estimated that just 10 per cent of the £200 million of shares in Egypt was owned by resident indigenous capitalists in 1947 (The Economist, 23 January 1947).

8. J. and S. Lacouture, Egypt in Transition, Methuen, London, 1958, p. 97; J. Damien, Social And Political Conditions in Egypt Today, Fourth International, Volume 7, no. 7, July 1946.

9. Egypte: un manifeste programmatique des Trotskystes Égyptiens, Quatrième Internationale, July–August 1947.

10. Egyptian National Committee, Egypt’s Case, Egyptian National Committee, London 1952, among the Sara-Maitland papers in the Modern Records Centre (MRC) in the University of Warwick, MRC/15C/5/2/3; Egypt, Fourth International, Volume 8, no. 7, July–August 1947.

11. Egyptian Gazette, 25 January 1946.

12. J. Heyworth-Dunne, Religious and Political Trends in Modern Egypt, Near and Middle East Monographs, London 1950, p. 63.

13. R.P. Mitchell, The Society of the Muslim Brothers, Middle East Monographs, London 1969, pp. 308–9.

14. Perrault, op. cit., pp. 62–3.

15. Botman, op. cit., pp. 181–5, 193.

16. op. cit., p. xx.

17. Note on Communist Policy for Egypt, undated document (1951), in the Communist Party of Great Britain archive (CP) in the National Museum of Labour History in Manchester, CP/CENT/INT/56/03.

18. Beinin and Lockman, op. cit., p. 333.

19. The section that follows is largely taken from Botman, op. cit., pp. 12–16.

20. L. Soliman, Pour une histoire profane de la Palestine, La Découverte, Paris 1989, p. 92.

21. Anwar Kamal (1919–1973) was a poet. Georges Henein (1914–1973) was a surrealist poet and writer, a friend of André Gide and André Breton. In 1939, Henein joined the International Federation of Independent Revolutionary Artists, an anti-Stalinist initiative organised by Breton. Henein published a number of books, including Déraisons d’être, Corti, Paris 1938; Un temps de petite fille, Éditions de Minuit, Paris 1947; L’Incompatible, Corti, Paris, 1949 and Le seuil interdit, Mercure de France, Paris, 1956. He was later an associate editor of the magazine Express. See J. Berque (et al.), Hommages à Georges Henein, Le Pond de L’Épée, Paris 1974; S. Alexandrian, Georges Henein, Seghers, Paris, 1981. Lotfallah Soliman (1919–1995) was a writer and journalist. He was later briefly an adviser to the FLN in Algeria, see Loutfallah Soliman, Cahiers Léon Trotsky, no. 61, 1998, pp. 123–4.

22. The group was more Egyptian than any of its rivals on the left, but a small number of its cadres was taken from Egypt’s minorities. Both Henein and Younane were Copts, born into the Christian minority. This should not be surprising, it has often been members of oppressed or marginalised groups that have provided revolutionary movements with their leadership.

23. Botman, op. cit., p. 14.

24. J. Damien, Qui est monsieur Aragon?, Éditions Masses, Cairo 1944, p. 10. There is a useful discussion of Surrealism and anti-Stalinism in the essays collected as The International Federation of Independent Revolutionary Artists, Revolutionary History, Volume 7, no 2, 1999, pp. 203–18. See also M. Nadeau, The History of Surrealism, Jonathan Cape, London 1968.

25. Botman, op. cit., p. 14; there are copies of al-Tatawwur in Dar al-Kutub, the national library in Cairo.

26. From al-Tatawwur, no. 3, March 1940, quoted in Alexandrian, op. cit., p. 30.

27. Interview with Alex Acheson, published as The Wartime Agitation of a Trotskyist Soldier, in S. Bornstein and A. Richardson, War and the International: A History of the Trotskyist Movement In Britain 1937–49, Socialist Platform, London 1986, pp. 246–7. Alex Acheson (1912–1996) was a supporter of the Revolutionary Socialist League, and later the RCP. For his obituary, see Revolutionary History, Volume 6, no. 4, 1998, pp. 242–3. Iqbal Alaily’s book was Vertu de l’Allemagne, Éditions Masses, Cairo,1940. The introduction to her collection is republished in translation in P. Rosemont, Surrealist Women: An International Anthology, University of Texas Press, Austin 1998, pp. 192–5.

28. Botman, op. cit., p. 15.

29. Perrault, op. cit., pp. 93–4.

30. Botman, op. cit., p. 15; this journal is referred to in RCP, News on Sections, Internal Bulletin, March 1945, copy in the Jock Haston papers (DJH), in the Brynmoor Jones Library, in the University of Hull, DJH/15A/21/y, and in Alexandrian, op. cit., p. 34; I have not been able to locate any surviving copies of the original paper.

31. A copy of the Palestinians’ letter was printed in the British Trotskyist paper, Workers International News, December 1944; Soliman, op. cit., pp. 92–4; Beinin, op. cit., pp. 144–60.

32. Egypt, Fourth International, Volume 8, no. 7, July–August 1947.

33. G. Henein to J. Deane, 27 October 1944, among the Jimmy Deane papers in the Modern Records Centre, MRC/325/6/A44 (99); G. Heinen to A. Keen, 30 July 1945, DJH/15F/8.

34. Bornstein and Richardson, op. cit., pp. 136–50.

35. The mechanics of the censorship are described in some detail in a letter to the Central Committee of the RCP, ‘Eric’ to RCP, 5 March 1945, DJH/15F/8. Joe Pawsey had been a member of the Marxist Group before the war, Bornstein and Richardson, op. cit., pp. 246–7.

36. B. Davidson, The Cairo Forces Parliament, Labour History Review, Volume 55, no. 3, 1990, pp. 20–6.

37. Letter from John Banks to the author, 28 September 1998; also for an account of the ILP’s activities among Lancaster servicemen, see The Enemy Within, in R. Challinor, The Struggle for Hearts and Minds: Essays on the Second World War, Bewick Press, Whitley Bay 1995, pp. 87–90.

38. Perrault, op. cit., pp. 75–6, 80, 100–6.

39. Magdi Wahba, in Berque, op. cit., p. 110.

40. Report on the Egyptian General Elections, internal RCP document, January 1945, DJH/15G/8; RCP, News on Sections, Internal Bulletin, March 1945; Alexandrian, op. cit., p. 34.

41. Bornstein and Richardson, op. cit., pp. 246-7.

42. G. Henein to A. Keen, 30 July 1945, DJH/15F/8.

43. G. Henein to A. Acheson, 22 October 1945, DJH/15F/8.

44. S.V. Bardell to CPGB, 25 January 1946, CP/CENT/INT/56/03.

45. G. Henein to RCP, 22 December 1945, DJH/15B/58/1. The pamphlet was A. Kamal, For a Classless Society, Éditions Masses, Cairo, 1945.

46. J. Haston to left MPs, 22 July 1946, DJH/15B/58/1.

47. Beinin and Lockman, op. cit., p. 348. There is a vivid description of the events of 9 February in the left-Wafdist paper, al-Wafd al-Misry, 10 February 1948, copies in Dar al-Kutub, Cairo.

48. ‘Fourth International’ to J. Haston, undated, February 1946, DJH/15B/58/1.

49. Report, internal RCP document, February 1946, DJH/15G/8.

50. Quoted in Activities of Egyptian Trotskyists, Socialist Appeal, 24 May 1946.

51. S.V. Bardell, The Conflict in Egypt, unpublished document, April 1946, CP/CENT/INT/56/03; Terror in Egypt: Trotskyists Lead in Egyptian Struggle, Socialist Appeal, Mid-July 1946; Egypte: Les Trotskystes dans la lutte contre le gouvernement, Quatrième Internationale, August–September 1946.

52. For Acheson, see Bornstein and Richardson, op. cit., pp. 246–7; for the controversy between the IKD and the International Secretariat of the Fourth International, see Alexander, op. cit., pp. 425–30.

53. J. Haston to ‘Lout, Georges, Ramses, Ibrahim’, 17 April 1946, DJH/15B/58/1.

54. J. Haston to RCP, 24 April 1946, DJH/15B/58/1; Henein to Nicholas Calas, 10 January 1948, quoted in Berque, op. cit., p. 42.

55. J. Deane, ‘Summary from Files, 10 February 1947, MRC/325/29/D47 (5).

56. L. Soliman, Egyptian Notes, Fourth International, Volume 7, no. 11, November 1946; A. Schwartz (Bookshop Culture) to Socialist Appeal, 3 December 1946, DJH/15B/58/1; Egypt, Fourth International, Volume 8, no. 7, July–August 1947; Loutfallah Soliman, Cahiers Léon Trotsky, no. 61, 1998, pp. 123–4.

57. Bornstein and Richardson, op. cit., pp. 209–7.

Updated by ETOL: 17.10.2011